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Why do we need a Rare approach to conservation?
In the last 50 years, human actions have altered the planet's natural resources -- the water we drink, the air we breathe, the Earth's natural bounty -- more than at any other time in history. Unabated, by 2025 environmental degradation could lead to the loss of 40% of the Earth's fresh water supply and a quarter of all coral reefs, as well as entire unique ecosystems and many of the basic processes on which life depends.
Desperate times call for innovative measures.
Rare has decided to market conservation using the same media and business savvy applied to selling consumer products. The future of our global environment ultimately depends on people's attitudes and behaviors, and the marketing industry has already perfected a whole suite of tools for targeting, persuading, and motivating audiences to adopt new things. So Rare is putting these tools to work on behalf of this century's most important sales pitch -- environmental conservation.
Rare is running outreach campaigns in more than 40 countries that mobilize communities to reduce threats to species and ecosystems. They're called "Pride" campaigns, because they inspire people to take pride in, and protect, the species and natural treasures that make their communities so valuable and unique. All are run by a local conservationist who is provided 18 months of training and support from Rare. And just like traditional marketing campaigns, all incorporate extensive market research and monitoring of attitude change and overall adoption of the "product."
Pride campaign tools include billboards, ads, giant mascots, bumper stickers, comic books, events, classroom activities, text messaging, sermons, and pop culture vehicles to reach every audience segment. Each is built around a flagship species that serves as a symbol of local pride (think Smokey the Bear!). Rare has trained more than 100 local leaders who have in turn inspired millions of people to embrace conservation.
By training and mentoring local conservation leaders to run Pride campaigns, Rare is developing a high-leverage model that enables its small staff to globally disseminate methods for reducing environmental threats, while putting in place lasting constituencies to support locally-driven conservation solutions for many years to come.
"Conservation is ultimately about people," says investment expert Jeremy Grantham of GMO. "Yet most conservation efforts to date have focused on scientific assessment, rather than addressing the underlying social and economic factors that create the largest environmental threats. What we need now are tools for mobilizing change at the local level, but on a substantial scale. Rare provides a scalable, replicable, and proven strategy for doing just that."
Rare has a strong community of donors who are looking for tangible, measurable returns on their investment, keeping overhead low, and providing partners with replicable tools and training that can be used long after Rare is gone. Here are a few examples of what our global network of local leaders has achieved:
- Produced a 50% reduction in forest fires in Manantlan, Mexico, and mobilized 2,000 volunteers to collect 16 tons of garbage and reforest the watershed.
- Created eight locally managed, marine protected areas in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea.
- Built a locally run ecotourism business in Sian Ka'an, Mexico, capable of competing with encroaching international operators (this business has now captured 30%-40% of overall market share and offers economic benefits to 75% of the families in surrounding communities).
- Triggered protective forestry and wildlife legislation in Sierra Leone, where livelihoods and cultural heritage depend on protection of native species.
- Established the first community-run conservation radio station in Siberut Island, Indonesia, and got a petition signed by 100 people refusing to sell land to logging companies (in the face of grave threats).
- Facilitated the creation of new reserves in Indonesia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Dominica, Saint Vincent, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and the Philippines; and contributed to the passage of new or enhanced natural resource management legislation in Saint Vincent, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Kosrae, Yap, Palau, and Costa Rica.
- Convinced 115 farmers to adopt sustainable organic coffee practices in Chiapas, Mexico; and trained 42 women in alternatives to using threatened parrot feathers in craftmaking.
For the past three years, Rare has been named one of Fast Company magazine's "Top 25 Social Capitalists" for its entrepreneurial and innovative approach.
But Rare and its partners have reached only a fraction of the 1.1 billion people living in the world's environmental hotspots. Still, we've already developed a global movement with tremendous momentum. Increased financial support is critical to helping Rare sustain momentum and support a global grassroots movement of the size needed to create lasting change.
In 2007, Rare will dramatically increase the number of conservationists it trains and supports across the globe. Training will be offered in more languages than ever before and new platforms built to link together the growing list of Pride "alumni" who are becoming a global force for grassroots conservation. Rare's services are currently used by everyone from The Nature Conservancy to the United Nations to the National Audubon Society to achieve the community education and outreach component of their own conservation efforts. Rare is proud to serve more than 100 local and international partners.
"In an original manner, Rare attends to conservation where it has ultimately the most lasting effect, through education tuned to the culture and needs of local people."
Pulitzer Prize winner and Harvard scientist E.O. Wilson